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‘Democracy into Chaos’ – the Triple Irony of Padilla’s Attack

“A continuation of the Republican Party’s plan to throw our democracy into chaos” – that’s what CA Secretary of State Alex Padilla called our court victory curbing Gavin Newsom’s abuse of power.

With the ink barely dry on the Superior Court’s Order, our state’s Chief Elections Officer turned the vindication of a sacred Constitutional principle – separation of powers – into a bizarre partisan attack.

Padilla, who is said to be on Gov. Newsom’s short list for the U.S. Senate if Kamala Harris vacates her seat, has neatly captured three ironies in the Governor’s claim to unbounded power.

First, while he tries to fan partisan flames, the Governor’s one-man rule has actually brought Democrat and Republican Legislators together. The Associated Press reports that “Lawmakers of both political parties have criticized Newsom for not sufficiently including them in his sweeping declarations.” One powerful Democrat Legislator decried the Governor’s “complete authority to do whatever he wants.”

Second, far from “throwing our democracy into chaos,” the whole point of the Superior Court’s Order was to stop the Governor’s own undemocratic conduct. The Order restrains the Governor from “exercising any further legislative powers in violation of the California Constitution” and bars him from “unilaterally amending, altering, or changing existing statutory law or making new statutory law.”

Third, the threat to voting access came from the Governor’s Executive Order, not our challenge to it. Among many changes, the Governor deprived Californians with disabilities of their statutory right to participate in election planning through a publicly noticed meeting.

Compared to Padilla, Gov. Newsom himself appears chastened, offering only that he was “disappointed” with the ruling. The Governor’s Office did add that “nobody should have to choose between their health and their right to vote” – failing to explain how his order freed anyone from that choice, or why an executive decree is the only instrument for addressing those priorities.

As CalMatters reported in its story on the ruling, “Judge Parker seemed to disagree that legislative authorization was merely optional.”